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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Are Employees With A Disability Protected From Retaliation When They Request To Work Remotely?

an image of an expensive person and a disabled person and an equal sign between them. Equality and acceptance of persons with disabilities

Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our labor lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that many employees with a disability need to work from home in order retain their employment. Although each case is highly fact specific and often turns on whether in-person work is an essential function of the employee’s job, many courts have determined that employees with a disability are entitled to work from home as an accommodation for their disability. Despite these court rulings, however, many employers continue to resist allowing disabled employees to work remotely as an accommodation for their disability. In some cases, employers even retaliate against disabled workers who request remote work as an accommodation for their disability. In this article, our labor lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Byfield v. New York City Department of Education, 2023 WL 8435183 (S.D. N.Y. Dec. 5, 2023) demonstrates that employees with a disability are protected from retaliation when they request to work from home as an accommodation for their disability.

Rights For Employees With Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against any employee on the basis of disability. Under the ADA, the term “discriminate” includes the failure or refusal to provide employees with a disability with a reasonable accommodation for their disability. Thus, as the court in Selenke v. Med. Imaging of Colo., 248 F.3d 1249 (10th Cir. 2001) explained, the ADA “establishes a cause of action for disabled employees whose employers fail to reasonably accommodate them.” The ADA, like all federal employment discrimination laws, also contains an anti-retaliation provision. Under the ADA, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who complain about perceived disability discrimination or employees who request an accommodation for their disability.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

In Byfield, a woman named Byfield brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, the New York City Department of Education (the “DOE”), pursuant to the ADA. Byfield claims that the DOE violated the ADA by retaliating against her for requesting an accommodation in the form of remote work for her disability.

Byfield worked for the DOE as a project manager. In the spring of 2021, with the COVID-19 pandemic in the wane, the DOE directed City employees to start returning to work in-person. To that end, the DOE issued a return-to-office plan. In response to the plan, Byfield emailed her supervisor in April 2021 requesting that she be allowed to continue to work remotely because of her claimed disability. Byfield alleges that her supervisor failed to follow proper escalation procedures in handling her request, delivering her request to an agency attorney in order to “weaponize” it, rather than forwarding the request to the DOE’s Office of Disability Accommodations (“ODA”). On May 5, 2021, Byfield filed the request herself with the ODA. The DOE subsequently denied Byfield’s accommodation request. Despite the denial, Byfield continued to work from home.

On May 28, 2021, according to Byfield, the DOE launched a series of payroll deductions of $298.15 every pay period from her paycheck, ostensibly to pressure her into quitting. On June 18, 2021, the DOE emailed Byfield regarding a disciplinary conference scheduled for June 25, 2021, at which she would be provided with the “opportunity to respond to an allegation regarding [her] failure to discharge [her] professional responsibilities,” specifically her alleged failure to comply with the DOE’s directives “regarding returning to the office.” On August 17, 2021, the DOE sent Byfield a similar email, indicating that another disciplinary a conference had been scheduled for August 25, 2021. Subsequently, on September 20, 2021, the DOE disabled Byfield’s remote work access, effecting terminating her ability to work. On September 21, 2022, the DOE terminated Byfield’s employment.

Protection From Retaliation

In denying the DOE’s motion to dismiss Byfield’s ADA retaliation claim, the trial court found that Byfield was protected from retaliation under the ADA when she requested to work from home as an accommodation for her disability. The trial court also found that Byfield had adequately alleged that the DOE subjected her to an adverse employment action in retaliation for requesting to work remotely. The trial court explained that Byfield’s allegations that the DOE “launched a series of payroll deductions of $289.15 from [her] paycheck following her requests to work remotely were sufficient to constitute an adverse employment action.” In other words, Byfield’s allegations that the DOE subjected her to payroll deductions in retaliation for requesting remote work was sufficient to establish an ADA retaliation claim. The trial court further determined that Byfield adequately alleged a causal connection between her requests to work remotely and the payroll deductions because Byfield requested to work remotely in April 2021 and May 2021, and the DOE’s alleged docking of her payments began on May 28, 2021. Thus, the purported retaliatory payroll deductions followed directly on the heels of Byfield’s requests to work from home.

Marion County, FL Labor Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our labor attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of employment discrimination victims. If you have been retaliated against for requesting an accommodation for your disability or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our labor lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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